LIVINGSTON (WWJ/AP) - Michigan officials say an 11-year-old hunter who shot a 12-point albino buck with a crossbow did nothing wrong.
In a message posted to the Department of Natural Resources' Facebook page, deer program specialist Brent Rudolph said Gavin Dingman, of Oceola Township, legally shot the albino deer last week.
The hunt drew widespread attention online after it was reported by the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus on Sunday, drawing several people to make comments criticizing the kill. Family members say the boy has even been the target of death threats since the hunt.
Rudolph says all-white deer have been legal to hunt in Michigan since 2008, when the state lifted protections for the animals. He said the restrictions were especially confusing for hunters.
"There is no biological reason to protect the genetic trait that causes a deer to be all-white or albino (in fact, the trait is certainly a disadvantage for avoiding predators)," Rudolph wrote.
Additionally, the deer can actually pose a threat to the rest of the population in the state.
"The all-white (not truly albino) deer were escaped exotic animals with the potential to spread disease into the wild deer herd, something we would not want to promote by protecting these deer," Rudolph wrote.
The DNR said they view the incident as an "opportunity for public dialogue."
"While it is legal to harvest an all-white, albino or piebald deer in Michigan, we understand and appreciate the many viewpoints on this issue from hunters and non-hunters alike, provided those opinions and values are expressed in a respectful way," Rudolph wrote.
Albino deer are very uncommon, but their rareness is unknown. Some researchers claim albino deer are born once in about 20,000 births, while others say it's more like one in 100,000 births.
According to reports, Dingman's family is having a taxidermist create a full-body mount of the deer as a trophy of the sixth-grader's hunting success.
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